Whilst the strategic emphasis might be on developing work from new clients, all professionals firms should devote some time and resources to managing and developing existing client relationships. This can be done on an informal basis but often requires some form of key client or account management programme.
A starting point is some detailed analysis of your existing clients – although the lack of good quality and comprehensive data can often pose problems. The purpose of this is to enable the sort of analysis suggested by Cranfield so that effort can be directed appropriately:
If getting good quality data is difficult, you might need to ‘grade’ your key clients on a more subjective basis. Some firms have a “client dashboard” on their PCs to keep all partners alert to the status of their key clients. For example, the following dashboard uses colour coding with my simple 6 P (please let me know if you would like further information on this) criteria:
Propensity to buy other services
Potential for growth
Some firms grade clients on a -5 to +5 scale using some or all of the following criteria:
- Refers quality new business
- Buys specialist services
- Recovery rate consistently high
- Debtor days consistently low
- Credit worthy
- Honesty, trustworthiness
- Successful business people
- Organised approach
- Interesting business/stimulating work
- Good people to work with
- Number of services bought
There are marketing consultants who have identified other criteria – depending on the nature of the professional service provided and the nature of the clients. Some have developed these into a type of protection index so you have a single measure of the strength of each client relationship. Some firms have used such systems to promote conversations with their clients in order to work out how they can increase their scores and improve the relationship, other firms have linked key client ratings to partner rewards.
Sometimes, the analysis to identify and use these criteria to grade or categorise your clients. Some firms now measure performance of partners, offices or teams in terms of the number of percentage of clients that they have in various categories.
This categorisation can inform and direct your firm’s overall segmentation strategy and help you to form new market segments which can be used to target new business as well. Such segmentation strategies can be helpful in supporting a critical review of and development plan for individual partner portfolios.
As well as focusing effort on the firm’s most important clients (however these are identified), this sort of first level client profiling can assist in identifying those clients that should be removed. One of my favourite ways to promote discussion of this process uses the following diagram:
If this is a subject of interest to you, I recently produced a half day workshop entitled “Establishing a key client programme” which addresses client profiling alongside all the other activities required to get account management working in a professional firm. Please let me know if you would like more details.
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As always, if there are particular topics you would like me to address in the future, please let me know. You will also find a source of more and up to date information on a broad range of management and marketing issues in the professions by checking out the blog where I also post regular reviews of books that might be helpful.